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Sosa narrowly misses 499th career homer

9/22/2002

PITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sammy Sosa is eager to get his 500th career
homer out of the way so he doesn't have to spend an entire winter
waiting for it.

Not so eager, though, that he doesn't take satisfaction in a
game-winning hit, even if it doesn't leave the park.

Sosa barely missed his 499th career homer with a go-ahead,
two-run single off the right-field wall, and the Chicago Cubs
rallied with three runs in the seventh to beat Pittsburgh 4-2
Saturday night.

Sosa also singled and scored in the fourth inning and walked
twice. He is two homers short of becoming the 18th player to hit
500 homers and the first to hit 50 or more in five consecutive
seasons.

"No question about it,'' Sosa said of wanting to get his 500th
as soon as possible. "I'm going up there and trying to be patient
and trying to find a pitch to hit. Hopefully I can find a good
pitch to hit (Sunday), maybe get one more and then let's go to
Chicago.''

Sosa seemed to have a possible home run target in starter Kip
Wells, who allowed Barry Bonds' 600th career homer earlier this
season, one of 20 he has surrendered this year.

But Wells left after pinch-hitter Corey Patterson's two-out
double with Pittsburgh up 2-1 in the seventh, the 28th time in 32
starts he has allowed three runs or fewer. The Cubs, who ended a
four-game losing streak, did their damage against the bullpen to
avoid going a season-low 27 games under .500.

Scott Sauerbeck (4-4) gave up Mark Bellhorn's single, advancing
Patterson to third before Al Reyes came in to hit pinch-hitter
Angel Echevarria with a pitch, loading the bases. With Sosa up,
Reyes' wild pitch scored Patterson with the tying run.

Sosa, who homered Friday night, then hit his long drive to
right, and he hesitated momentarily to go into his familiar
home-run hop. But the ball struck the 21-foot wall about a foot or
so below the right-field seats, and his delayed start forced him to
stop at first with a 350-foot single.

"It was pretty close,'' said Sosa, who also singled and scored
on Kevin Orie's single in the fourth. "I hit it well. It was a
good at-bat. He pitched me very well and that was a tough pitch to
hit on the outside corner.''

Pirates manager Lloyd McClendon wanted to avoid using Sauerbeck,
who made his 75th appearance. But he changed his mind when he
thought the left-hander could get Bellhorn to end the inning.

"I'm kind of kicking myself,'' McClendon said. "It just didn't
work out. At some point, we've got to give those guys a rest down
there.''

Kyle Farnsworth (4-6) struck out the only two batters he faced
in relief of Pat Mahomes in the sixth for the victory. Mahomes made
his first start since June 4, 2001, with Texas, giving up two runs,
seven hits and four walks in 5 1/3 innings.

Aramis Ramirez's RBI single, only his second hit in 32 at-bats,
and Kevin Young's leadoff homer in the sixth put the Pirates up 2-1
against Mahomes.

Will Cunnane followed Farnsworth to get the next five outs, and
Joe Borowski struck out Pokey Reese with one on to end the eighth --
one of 13 runners the Pirates stranded.

Juan Cruz, who has a 2-11 record, pitched the ninth for his
first save, one night after Cubs closer Antonio Alfonseca gave up
two runs in the ninth as Pittsburgh rallied to win 5-4. On
Thursday, Alfonseca failed to hold a ninth-inning lead at New York.

Cruz quickly got into trouble when Jack Wilson reached on first
baseman Hee Seop Choi's error and Jason Kendall walked. But after a
visit to the mound by manager Bruce Kimm, Cruz got the final three
outs.

"I wanted to see the look on his face,'' Kimm said. "I wanted
to see if he was in control or if he was in antsy, and he was
completely calm. I told him not to worry about the hitter's
weaknesses, just throw whatever pitch he was going to throw 100
percent and go after them.''

Wells struck out six and walked two in 6 2-3 innings, but
remained winless in seven starts in PNC Park since beating Montreal
on June 26. He is 0-4 over that span and is 4-12 since an 8-2
start.

"A lot of games down the road I pitch probably will be 1-0 or
2-1 ... and you have to learn to put up zeros,'' Wells said.

Game notes
The Pirates had 10 hits. ... Wells hasn't won since Aug. 24
... The crowd of 33,653 for a Reese bobblehead doll giveaway was
the Pirates' largest at home this month. ... The Cubs lead the
season series 8-7 with four games remaining. ... Some fans booed
when Sosa was intentionally walked in the ninth.